In a country like India, one can never run out of occasions to dress up and celebrate. But finding the perfect dress is a whole another battle. There are so many different types of dresses available to every woman in India. Just like women, dresses also come in a plethora of cuts, silhouettes, styles, etc. It can seem like a task to pick out the perfect dress that suits your style statement while also faltering your body type.
Dresses and fashion have come a long way since its inception, where only the skinny was considered fashion worthy. Slowly but sure this perception is changing and in India, it no different. But still dressing up as a curvy woman or as a plus size woman comes with its own set of challenges. From finding the right fit to the right fabric, to having the right silhouette to accentuate the feminine figure, is often times a losing war.
To help you out with this battle, The Svaya brings to you a carefully crafted guide of different types of dresses every woman should know in India.
Depending on the length of the dress, they can commonly be categorised as Maxi length dress, Midi length dresses or Mini dresses.
1. Maxi Dresses
A maxi dress is an ankle length dresses or even floor length that come in a variety of necklines, cuts, sleeves, patterns, et cetera. They are often time a summer favourite because of their flowy, chic and comfortable feel.
For those with a petite frame, can easily get away with wear a strapless piece but one with spaghetti straps would create more of a definition. When it comes to curvy women, maxi dresses with broad straps or a halter neck is the way to go.
When it comes to choosing the right prints, for a boho-chic feel, opt for a smaller print but bold prints go well with bold personalities- if that’s you, go ahead and flaunt your style. Solid colour maxi dress is a great for making a statement.
Style Tip: Keep the accessories to a minimum. You can also snitch it at the waist with a to give it a shape and also help break the pattern of the dress. Since their vibe is pretty chic, a pair or flip flops or a cute pair of flats goes so well with them.
2. Midi Dresses
Midi dresses are the one that are between the maxi and the mini dress, traditionally, finishing at the calves. One great thing of the midi length dresses is, they can be worn all year round. Even in a country like India, which experiences a range of different weathers from dry and hot summers to extreme winters, midi length dresses can be styled and accessories to fit according to the weather. Again, same the maxi dress, midi dresses also come in a range of cuts, silhouettes, style, pattern fabrics, etc.
We often assume tall and slim women have an upper hand when it comes styling dress, but that’s not the case with midi dresses. They knew is to find the one that hems right above the calves.
For the summers and the spring season, you should opt for a lighter fabric and tend to be a little towards the flirtier side, with spaghetti straps, off shoulder or even sleeveless options. Styling it up with a comfortable summer sandal, cross body sling bag and a pair of sunglasses. Put your hair up in a bun and you are ready with a classic summer look. These are also ideal for a night out with your girlfriends since it gives you the required shape while also being a hassle – free option.
3. Mini Dress
A sandal when they were shown to the public for the very first time, But currently, they are a great way to capture the attention. Mini dresses generally end above the knee in length. It is a fun, stylish and sexy piece of garment that flatters all body shapes. Mini dresses come in numerous shapes, cuts, style, silhouettes, etc
The key is ofcource to find the cut, pattern, fabric and the style that suits you instead of avoiding a piece of garment all together. Opt for a pair of sneakers and jean jacket to give it an everyday casual or a sporty look or pair it up with a leather jacket and lace up boots for a more edgy feel.
Personally, these are one of my favourites to wear. Whether is out for a movie or a date and even family gatherings. They give you just the right amount of confidence to strut in style while giving the freedom of movement.
Now let’s talk about the different types of silhouettes. In simple term, a silhouette is the shape the dress creates, when you wear it. Under this, dresses can broadly be categorised as:
1. Shift Dress
A trend that started in the 1960s is typically a short dress that “hangs” of the wearer. This a choice for those going for a more retro look. Because of the straight lines, shift dresses are pre-dominantly worn by petite figures because of the boxy feel it gives. It is often times refers to as a blank canvas because it can be styled to carry you from a work day to a night out with your girlfriends.
Frankly speaking I think every woman in India should own one or two shift dresses. It is perfect if you love a slightly oversized fit. If you know how to jazz it up, it can so from super casual to super glam.
2. Bodycon Dress
Bodycon dresses are categorised as a figure-hugging fabric and a seductive design that shows off the women’s body. Initially introduced in the 1990s as a counteract to the then popular baggy style of styling. The rule with them is to choose the design and fabric according to your body type. A solid colour body con dress is a classic but if you are in the mood to experiment, there are plethora of patterns, designs and colour combinations available for you.
If you want to tone down the accentuating body-hugging-ness of it but still want to flaunt your dress, you can always pair it up with a crop jacket. It also ads a casual twist to it.
A term coined by a fashion royalty, Christian Dior, A-line dresses are one of the most popular silhouettes. Due to their cut, they look good on almost all body shape. This style features a fitted bodice and flares out from the waste. The magical thing about this shape is that it minimises the waist and the hips and drawing attention to the other parts of the body.
A-Line is one of the most common silhouettes in India and A-line kurtas are one of the most loved pieces of garments. Since these kurtas don’t have a slit, they are also worn as Indo-Western dresses. Speaking from experience, they look great and feel great too, especially since in India, where there is a need for ethnic-ish dresses that also gives a casual look.
4. Sheath Dress
Sheath dresses, like the word suggests are form fitting at every point. From the neckline to the hem. To give the freedom of movement, they often feature a slit at the bottom. The modern-day sheath dresses are credited to French fashion designer Paul Poiret, and in the 1960s, Hollywood starlets - Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn popularised this silhouette.
Style Tip: For a casual weekend look, pair your sheath dress with a cropped denim jacket, a small backpack and flat boor or ballerinas and you are ready to enjoy a weekend with your friends feel comfortable and confident, ad the same time.
5. Slip Dress
Initially, as the name suggests worn as a slip under the garments, became a popular piece of clothing for women in the 1930s. In the modern fashion environment, slip dresses are made out of soft fabrics like satin and feature a V-neckline with spaghetti straps. Though the style and the cut remain virtually the same since the beginning, it has come a long way in terns of inclusivity of curvy and plus size women.
Styling Tip: Is your style statement edgy? Good because you are in luck. A simple satin slip dress, leather jacket, combat boots and a choker and you are ready to lead the road to revolutions while listen to the most bangin’ soundtrack.
6. Smock Dress
The smock dress is an unstructured and a voluminous dress often made out of light weight material. Originally worn by the working class in the 18-19 century, it again gained popularity in the lockdown of 2020. The key feature of the smock dress is the oversized fullness of the design. This fullness is teamed with sleeves which are equally full.
This is a great choice for day when you know you are going out for the purpose of eating and drinking. It hides your food baby giving you the perfect gram-worthy picture to show off on your socials.
7. Mermaid Dress
Mermaid silhouette is a fitted style that hugs the body, all the way from the neckline till below the knee and then its flairs out, giving the illusions of a tail and hence the name – mermaid. Since these are more often than not full-length gowns, they make a perfect option for formal evening events
8. Shirt Dress
A shirt dress is a longer version of a traditional shirt, but worn as a dress. Often times a belt is added in the middle to give it a little shape. Its versatility knows no bound. A shirt dress works on many levels. Pair it up with heels and a smart jacket for a smart look. Swap out the shoes for trainers, and a denim jacket for chic feel. Same dress, different occasions!
9. Wrap Dress
Introduced in the 70s the iconic wrap dress became a symbol of femininity. To this day the wrap dress is the #1 DRESS that works for all body types, all women, all occasions. From cotton blend to silk, long sleeves or no sleeves, from midi to maxi, from wild prints to clean cut designs – there are infinite styles, and even more infinite ways of wearing a wrap dress.
Pro Tip: Jackets. A sling piece of garment that can change your whole look and feel of the outfit. No matter the silhouette, add a jacket and voila! It’s a whole new fit. Since the winters are also on its way, it’s a practical approach too.
Apart from these another important bifurcation to the types of dresses every woman should know about in India are based on their necklines. This is one such element that can take a dress from a drab to a fab with just a few simple tweaks. Just like the list of different types of dresses available to women tin India, the list of different types of necklines is also extensive. But to begin with lets see a few basic ones.
V-Neckline – Originating in the middle east, V-neckline is formed by creating 2 diagonal line (starting from the shoulder) and making them meet by extending them, essentially creating a V
Bardot – Name after Bridgette Bardot, this off-the-shoulder piece, leaves the shoulder uncovered while still featuring sleeves. This neckline doesn’t have a particular season and is suitable for a whole range of celebration.
Halter – A summer favourite, halter neckline is again a sleeveless piece which is tied at the back of the neck or at least, that’s the illusion they give. Back in the 2000s, this was the go-to neckline for every girl out there and seem to be making a comeback once again.
Strapless- The current version of a strapless dress originated in the 1930s by designer, Mainbocher. Just as the name suggests, this dress doesn’t have any sleeves or straps and sits just at the at the bust.
Now to an element that is important not only for the aesthetic reasons but also for the practicality of it – sleeves. In the simplest of terms, sleeves are the piece of the garment that covers the arms. They may be tight, loose, non-existent or even extend beyond the arms depending the style and pattern of the rest of the garment.
In terms of its length, sleeves are broadly classified as
- Sleeveless – The dress ends at the should thus the name, sleeveless – meaning without sleeves. Considered more of a modern trend,
- Half Sleeves – It is a various of sleeves that cover half of the arm, approximately till the elbow. A classic in a country like India.
- ¾ Sleeves – These sleeves cover ¾ of your arms, typically ending 3-6 inches above the wrists. Every Indian household staple – From mothers to daughters.
- Full sleeves – Again just as the mane suggests, it covers the entire arm length, ending at the wrists. Of Couse a winter staple.
And now on to the interesting bits, types of sleeves based on their styling and designs
- Bell Sleeves – these are long sleeve variation which are fitted around the shoulder and flares out as the sleeves reached the wrist. It is considered a very feminine style which seems to be making a come back in the recent times.A perfect fit for the current season with winters on the way. Stay classy and warm all wrapped up in uber-feminine style.
- Kimono Sleeves – Taking inspiration from the Chinese piece of garment – The Kimonos, these sleeves are in one piece with the bodice of the garment. They are traditionally wide at a uniform circumference throughout its length.
- Bishop Sleeves - Now let’s look at the West for some inspiration. These again are part of the long sleeves’ clan. They have gathered at the bottom with a button cuff or something similar near the wrist.
Butterfly Sleeves – These sleeves are relatively shorter sleeves that start at the shoulders flaring out from there itself. They typically do for cover the entire length of the arms. Another variation in these are the flutter sleeves. Flutter sleeves are generally even shorter and a little widder that the butterfly sleeve. But the basic pattern of flaring out and falling loosely on the wearer remains the same.
These can be considered a little flirty, with the soft fall and the movement. Maybe a perfect choice for a first date?
- Balloon sleeves – These are long voluminous sleeves that is gathered at the shoulder and then balloons up in the middle and then again gathers up at the wrist. Similar to these are the puffed sleeves. These as the name suggests are puffed. The design of these sleeves has gathers at the top and bottom, but full in between, allowing it to puff up and create fullness.
- Cape Sleeves – These sleeves can be traced back to when clocks where an everyday piece of garment. Capes are back in the modern age to make a style statement. They are full flowy sleeves that gather at the should and flow freely like a cape. Personally, one of my favourites, gives the wearer such a royal look and who doesn’t love being a queen?
Keep in mind – the clothes are made to fit your body not the other way around. Experiment, play and have fun, that’s what the fashion is suppose to be. Now, that you have gone through with this relatively short and compact list of different types of dresses every woman should know, which ones are you missing from your wardrobe?